Contributor: Josh Hall
On a recent Undercard Supercast, we got into the topic of sex appeal in the MMA world, and whether it is a good or bad thing for the sport and the athletes. One fighter that has been prominently featured in this debate is recently signed Invicta Strawweight Felice “Lil Bulldog” Herrig. Herrig has made a name for herself not just as a fighter (top 10 in the world at Strawweight in MMA and a 23-5-4 record as a kickboxer), but also as a woman that completely embraces dressing up and doing photo shoots as well. This has brought positive reactions from some people, but also a great deal of criticism from some of her fellow WMMA fighters. I had the pleasure of asking Felice some questions about her experiences, and she provided some great insight into her mindset as a fighter as well as a woman in the sport.
Keep reading to see Herrig’s take on the impact of sex appeal in women’s MMA, an impassioned response to the people that pass judgment on her, her thoughts on being a fighter who is also goofy and nerdy (and the answer to the ever important question of Marvel vs DC), and get a deeper look into a woman who is having a blast being comfortable with herself, even when other people don’t like it.
Josh Hall: As the recent Fightland article discussed (http://fightland.vice.com/blog/sex-sells-but-is-that-a-good-thing) you have become one of the faces for sex appeal in MMA. To put it into comic book terms, I’m curious as to the origin story for this. Was it a plan you had from the beginning when you first entered combat sports or did it develop over time?
Felice Herrig: Actually to be quite honest yes it was, ever since I was a little girl I wanted to be an actress. I love being on stage and entertaining and for now the cage is my stage. But I want to think about my life and career after fighting. I am not oblivious to what the market wants but I’m not really trying to sell myself as a sex symbol or “sell sex” as a lot of people say. It’s really just who I am… I’m just marketing myself as I am, a bit goofy, happy and sure I like dressing up and feeling sexy what girl doesn’t?
JH: Since I’ve brought up comic books…
I have to ask, what is your favorite cosplay costume you have worn, and do you make them yourself? Do you have any more planned out for future weigh ins or other events?
FH: I really liked my Chun Li outfit, and my Super girl outfit. Of course I have plenty more. The only problem is I probably wont have as many fights as I do ideas. But don’t you worry, there are plenty more ideas and designs to come but I’m no SUZY home maker, I do not physically make them myself. (I hope I don’t lose points for that.)
SIDE NOTE: you will get to see more Cosplay from me with my Halloween costume this year.
FH: I like them both equally just in different ways. But there’s nothing quite like the rush of getting through a hard training session and knowing you’re working hard towards achieving a goal. Then again at the same time there’s also no other feeling like getting all dressed up and feeling glamorous and beautiful. You don’t have to be one or the other and I don’t think they are mutually exclusive.
JH: Does your image as a sex symbol ever lead to awkward/unpleasant encounters with overeager or creepy fans, and if so how do you handle that?
FH: I have had plenty of awkward encounters but I keep a small circle of friends so I never really get creeped out. I embrace everything. I really appreciate my fans and enjoy interacting with them. For the most part it’s in a fan setting and I have my manager/body guard with me so if anything got too out of hand or crazy it would be taken care of.
JH: How much do you have to adjust your diet around fight time? Does the modeling side work have any effect on what you can eat in between fights? Do you have a go-to snack during fight week?
FH: I have always been a really healthy person. So for me it’s a lifestyle. I enjoy the food I eat… It’s healthy but it’s also delicious. When it comes close to a fight I eat the same way but cheat less. And then as it gets closer to the fight I really just make sure i’m portioning everything out. My go to snack fight week is usually a brown rice cake with raw almond butter, or a rice cake with avocado, tomato and sea salt. I also really enjoy this Raw Granola by GO RAW. (haha its calle gRAWnola.)
JH: If not for some female fighters (yourself obviously included) using their sex appeal in addition to their fighting skills, where do you think WMMA would be today? Do you think there would be enough drawing power for Invicta to even exist without that extra spark to grab the attention of the predominantly male fanbase?
FH: I know the girls are definitely talented enough and I really think that Invicta giving women a home and a platform has helped tremendously, but I do not think that the UFC would have given women the chance had Rhonda not been a skilled fighter as well as looked the way she does. Lets face it, the UFC couldn’t get her clothes off and on the cover of ESPN fast enough. Call it good or call it bad, society likes to see people doing things that they don’t necessarily look like they can or should be doing. If the person backs up their looks with skill then you have the perfect storm. I embrace this because I think the women’s fights are some of the most exciting fights period and now people are paying attention. Now that WMMA is being recognized I don’t think people care whether a woman is beautiful or not. People are now recognizing all the different characters in WMMA and just want to watch good fights and Invicta puts on great fights!
JH: It is pretty clear that you have gained the attention of a lot of male fans by using your very specific and effective marketing technique. What about the flip side of that coin? How do female fans that you talk to feel about your use of sex appeal to get ahead?
FH: I get a lot of crap from women but I also get a lot of praise. I think the only women who really have a problem with it are the one’s who are jealous and uncomfortable in their own skin or feel entitled. It takes a lot to be bold and If anyone really stopped to look or give me a chance they would see that i’m about more than just marketing myself as a “sex symbol” I’m goofy, sassy, and I just enjoy life. I interact with my fans, I work hard for my sponsors and I’m honest. I bust my ass in the gym! To me that has always come first. So if the only thing they choose to notice is that from time to time I post some sexy photos they aren’t really paying attention. They are just looking for reasons to be negative and hate on me because maybe I’m getting attention and making a living doing things my way.
JH: Do you have any message for the people that decry your actions as slutty or those of a bad role model?
FH: Yes, firstly “slutty/trashy” is subjective obviously… I mean “some” of the people calling me “trashy” will show up for a weigh in and “class” the whole place up in 6″ heels and a micro bikini… so there’s that. So I do athletic photo shoots in a sports bra and booty shorts.. All female fighters are put on display at weigh ins in the same type of clothes and most fight in those types of clothes as well. The body is beautiful and I’ve seen far less clothing on models in Maxim Magazine and the ESPN body issue and never heard anyone call these tasteful magazines trashy. I know people are just looking for reasons to hate and say I’m a bad role model. I am chasing my dream and I treat people right. All the people who go out of their way to speak poorly of me for no reason, speaks more on their character than mine. I would never judge someone for living their life and being happy if they weren’t hurting people. I may not be a “role model” to the people who want to nit pick me and find reasons to hate, but to people around me who have gotten the chance to know me I am a good friend. I’m living my dreams and I am not afraid to be who I am.. I know that I will continue to be judged but that comes with the territory i suppose. I stay true to myself. PREACH….. Breathe Felice Breathe. Yup I felt like a motivational speaker right there. that really got me going… Breathe…
JH: Do you have any idea when your first Invicta fight is going to be or your opponent?
FH: I am still waiting to hear back from a Japanese promotion. I may be Megumi Fuji’s retirement fight in October and if that doesn’t happen I will be on the November card in Invicta.
JH: And, because I would be an awful nerd if I didn’t ask, what is your favorite comic and video game of all time?
FH: My favorite Video game of all time would have to be Street Fighter… I did a Street Fighter Tribute with my Chun Li outfit in a previous fight, I was also Cammy from Street Fighter for Halloween. I think it’s safe to say she is my idol. As for comics, X-men and Wolverine is my all time favorite Comic. And even though I know you didn’t ask.. I prefer Marvel over DC.. So I should also probably get some bonus points for that.
-Josh can be reached at email@example.com or @jhall282. Felice can be reached on Twitter @feliceherrig.
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